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Ordinary Storm

Happy brothers over pancakes.

The storm has come and gone without much impact in Troy. The street is quieter than a Sunday morning. Everything closed in anticipation of trouble, but trouble is south of us.

Over the weekend I scrambled to get things done in the garden, presuming something large was on the horizon. Jack and Francis got in the garlic. Felix had a huge misunderstanding about getting to plant some himself for commercial gain, and there were a lot of tears. He rallied, though, when I got him to plant rye in a bed on the north side.

This bed has been the site of much random action. Last year I planted some baby bok choy and collard starts Rebeca brought home, thinned out from work at Denison Farm. The bok choy grew twice last year and maybe three times this year, self-seeding before I could harvest it. The collards stuck around all year, and had stalks as thick as Felix’s wrists. There was some super crinkly arugula that made its way through the dry dry July, and a few kales.

Felix took this and the one above, too.

The tendency here is to let things grow and grow until they quit – hence the self-seeding bok choy. So Saturday, part of me wanted to let the bed keep going. But it was also one of the few places I could plant rye. Planting wheat on wheat is asking for disease, and I had some Danka rye from Thor. After a few minutes pacing, I decided to yank the food in favor of more food.

I took up the volunteer sungolds at the very north end, untangling them from their giant cages. I cut the bok choys, less than ten small plants, and kales. I cut all the collards, and some very shrively beets that didn’t have much more than greens. I left the arugula because it was on the south end of the bed and I couldn’t quite be merciless or complete.

I pulled up all the weeds and scraped out some leaves. I finally yanked the soaker hoses I didn’t use this year. Last year we lay them around the bok choys, but I cannot stand fussing with our salvaged soaker hoses, so I just let them sit this summer. But it was time to get them up, and I threw them disdainfully on the pile of soaker hose snakes. Some things create more problems than solutions. I think we’ll buy some drip tape this winter to water the garden on Ninth Street.

I got the broadfork and loosened up the soil, and gave the camera to Felix to keep him engaged. He was still tender about having his dreams of garlic moguldum interrupted.

We planted the rye in rows. Felix could not wrap his head around this – he wanted to broadcast seed it as he’d done every other grain. But he cooperated, most happily covering the rows I filled a little unevenly.

It felt so good to clean the slate and get something new in the ground that I got rid of the arugula too, and planted the whole thing.

This got me thinking about the advantages of planting on purpose vs. allowing what comes to me grow. Not just in the yard but in my writing. Could I be less random about the paid and unpaid stories I write? I really like the spontaneous announcement of subjects for poems or fiction. Planning doesn’t seem to be the key there, and improvising from what crosses my eye works pretty well.

I can’t clean the slate for my paid writing and turn down work that doesn’t fit my big write about food and agriculture plan, because I need to make some money. Worse than Felix does. Gardening metaphors are tempting, but they can simplify things too much. Look how Chance’s statements are misinterpreted in the movie Being There.

Still, it was good for us to have a storm-imposed deadline. I got two gallons of greens in the freezer – cooked with salami, garlic and chicken stock, and I have another gallon fermenting – mustard greens, some cabbage leaves that will never head, baby collards and carrots.

I hope everyone who was hit hard by Sandy can find their way to ordinary soon.



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